Author(s): Rimpau W
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Abstract Restitution after brain damage was the leading topic in 1930 at the 20th annual meeting of the Society of German Neurologists in Dresden, Germany. One of the "nonanatomic" presentations was held by Viktor von Weizs├Ącker about modifications in neurological function. Finally the presentation by Kurt Goldstein about restitution after damage of the brain cortex, strongly supported by Weizs├Ącker, was the starting point for controversies on the significance of natural scientific methods in the field of neurology. Goldstein and Weizs├Ącker favored the idea that function can be understood only if we consider it in light of the whole organism. However, the president of the Society of German Neurologists, Otfrid Foerster, was mainly influenced by the overall concept of the structure of the peripheral nervous system and - as Weizs├Ącker indirectly blamed - came to inadequate conclusions by transferring these concepts to the entire nervous system. In contrast Weizs├Ącker and Goldstein suggested analyzing pathological phenomena not only according to classical physiology, i.e. isolated data acquired by the dissecting method of natural science. Weizs├Ącker stressed hermeneutic views concerning the mind: body relationship in a phenomenologically oriented medical anthropology. Some years later Foerster linked up with Weizs├Ącker's position. Goldstein established the new method, the so-called holistic, organismic approach, which he carried on after emigrating to the U.S.A. in 1935. The Heidelberg School around Weizs├Ącker tried during the following years to liberate neurology from the ideology of materialistic reductionism without however reducing it to simple psychology. The doctrine of neurons and principles of saltatory conduction as basic and descriptive instruments in neurology were not to be questioned. In 1941 Weizs├Ącker succeeded Foerster as Professor of Neurology at the University of Breslau and Director of the Neurological Research Institute. His literary work "The Circle of Form. Theory of the Unity of Movement and Perception" and Goldstein's "The Organism. A Holistic Approach to Biology derived from Pathological Data in Man" [new edn. by Oliver Sacks, Zone Books, New York, 1995] obtained paradigm values which had their beginnings in Dresden in 1930. "The crisis in biology in the matter of theory of cognition and natural philosophy" was already then obvious and still can be found in present discussion about the relationship between neurosciences and humanities. Weizs├Ącker increased his focus on medical anthropology by taking a full professorship of general clinical medicine in 1946 in Heidelberg. It is not without reason that Weizs├Ącker is recognized as a founder of psychosomatic medicine.
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